See, in last week’s Super Bowl preview piece, I spent a lot of words on the ridiculousness of media week, and specifically, on the “human interest” side of football. The running back whose father was actually the person he’d always thought was his older brother; the backup defensive lineman who was born without the ability to taste chocolate.
My contention was (and is) that we don’t NEED bullshit, heartfelt tales of woe and/or triumph to make us feel excited about football. It’s football, for crying out loud.
Enter: the Winter Olympics.
As you all know, the Olympics kicked off on Thursday night (with an opening ceremony airing the NEXT night, which hurts my brain) with some ice dancing and some skiing and some snowboarding and that thing where the dudes run through the woods and then shoot a rifle, which is bizarre and confusing. Over the next few… days? weeks? (clearly, I have NO idea how long this thing lasts) we’ll see more of that stuff, plus ice-toboggans and other kinds of skiing, and everyone’s favorite punch line of a sport, curling. Oh. And hockey. (And is ice-boxing a thing? Can I petition to MAKE it a thing?)
And so, as you’ve probably gathered by now, I don’t give a shit about the Olympics.
I get the patriotism, and the nationalistic urge to have my country crush all of the countries where the women are hairier than most American men, but I’ll mostly watch with disjointed, limited interest. I’ll watch it the same way that I watch Good Times: because it’s always (ALWAYS) airing, and it’s primarily mindless.
Aside from the moderate desire to see the U.S. ASSERT DOMINANCE IN EVERYTHING, EVER, I’m just not that compelled. And a lot of that is a lack of human-interest, as well as negligible star-power.
Unlike the summer Olympics, there is no Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. There isn’t the vapid hotness of Ryan Lochte or barely-legal eroticism of McKayla Maroney. No Gabby Douglas. These games don’t even have that legless South African fella who runs on steel boomerangs and murders his girlfriends.
It’s mostly void of personality.
Lindsay Vonn is hurt and not competing. Shaun White is just kind of… annoying? There is no WT Princess clubbing anyone else in the knee to make the squad. Bonnie Blair is 49 years old and but a distant, dated point of reference. Apollo Ohno is retired from everything except Subway commercials, Dancing with the Stars and corporate guest speaking engagements (I’m assuming on this last bit). Elvis Stojko retired eight years ago. (And was Canadian, and therefore, a villain.)
Instead, the story is not that of the athletes, or the fierce rivalries, but that of the location itself:
Detroit, MI. Sochi, Russia. Sochi—as if you didn’t know—is a bustling resort community on the coast of the Black Sea. The thing is, our definition of a “bustling resort city” greatly differs from that of Russia.
Plagued by terrorism, dilapidated infrastructure, poor people and feral dogs, Sochi has proven itself to be everything that is wrong with the Olympic location bidding process. (And by association, the entirety of the International Olympic Committee itself.) It’s like that episode of The Simpsons where Principal Skinner uses Fat Tony and the mob to rebuild Springfield elementary, only to find out that they made it entirely out of old breadsticks. Before the first athlete even stepped foot into the arena—or onto the ice, or at the top of the slope—these games were destined for failure.
And that’s a shame. (Or maybe would be, if I cared. I’m sure I do NOT speak for a lot of viewers the world over who absolutely love these games, and to those people, I offer my condolences.)
I just hope in this next go round, there are some characters a little more exciting to root for, allowing us to place our interest somewhere other than weird toilets, crummy looking water and the threat of participant and attendee safety. I am an American, goddamnit, and I demand that my free, televised sporting events not only be entertaining, but deeply engrossing on an emotional level, as well.
In conclusion: Go U.S.A.!
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